Teen’s Methadone Death Prompts Review Of State’s Program

by baladmin | November 12, 2013

Methadone programs were created to help heroin and other opiate addicts stop abusing their drug of choice. The problem is, methadone is also a member of the opiate drug class, and the drug that’s supposed to help stop opiate addiction is now being abused and leading to fatal overdoses.

Heroin, codeine, morphine, methadone, Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet, Percodan, fentanyl, and meperidine are all opiates. Some are developed from naturally-occurring plants, mainly the poppy plant, but others are fully synthetic, or man-made, like Vicodin for example, in an effort to mimic the effects of heroin.

Opiates are highly addictive and extremely difficult to stop using once physical or psychological dependence has developed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the statistic that 100 people die from prescription drug overdoses every single day in the United States, and opiates are the main culprit. Vicodin and OxyContin, and other opiates containing their active ingredients, hydrocodone and oxycodone, respectively, have created major problems for those who take them. Methadone, is now being added to that list.

The Danger of Methadone

While this opiate is generally administered in a low, controlled dose, methadone is still being abused. If a methadone patient, receiving an appropriate daily dose, does not ingest that amount, and instead saves it, along with the daily dose for each of seven days, at the end of the week, this person can take all seven doses and get high on methadone.

The recent overdose death of a 16-year-old girl, whose autopsy revealed methadone was in her system, prompts the review of how methadone is administered. This particular girl was not on the official methadone program list, which makes the case even more alarming. How did she get enough methadone to overdose? The coroner evaluating this case said that it is clear this young woman was abusing methadone for the twelve months prior to her death.

Review of State’s Methadone Program
While this review is happening in Australia, the same types of incidents are occurring in the United States as well. The idea behind a regulated methadone clinic seems great in theory, but clearly the system is not air-tight; people are abusing the treatment that is designed to help them.

Because of this girl’s death, and the overdose deaths of nearly 50 others, a mandatory review has been issued to the Department of Health Services (DHS), who has three months to formally respond. The coroner has filed a set of recommendations that the DHS must review and take action against.

According to TheAge.com, the recommendations are:

  • The Health Department urgently review its policy with respect to takeaway dosing.
  • The department initiate a process to generate data on the number of patients on takeaway dosing, the number of doses they receive and how long before they are put on a takeaway arrangement.
  • Hospitals have access to methadone program permit records at all times.
  • Emergency departments record all admissions of patients suffering from methadone toxicity and who are not on the program.
  • Health Department investigates extent of trading in takeaway methadone.
  • Warnings to be placed on methadone bottles not to let a person “sleep it off”.
  • Stricter regulations about who can take away methadone.
  • Mandatory drug counselling with the program.
  • Patients suspected of selling or trading their methadone are banned from takeaway doses.

Methadone Programs Save Lives
While changes are certainly needed, when methadone is taken as intended, it saves lives. Methadone stops many opiate addicts from abusing heroin or prescription pills that continue to damage the body and can lead to a fatal overdose.

If you know someone who has been abusing any opiate, including methadone, the team at Balboa Horizons can intervene and stop the progression to addiction.

Call now to find out how to help yourself or your loved one. 877-309-4593.